Re:Capital, the Canadian arm of British firm Hilco Capital, has acquired Tilley Endurables Inc., a hat and travel apparel company for an undisclosed sum and intends to invest in boosting the business.

The premium apparel producer and retailer is well known for its hard-wearing sun hats. The retailer aims to recapture the business it lost following its peak in 2006 and 2007 by expanding in the United States and Europe, explains Mary Coleen Shanahan, chief executive officer of Tilley, in an interview.

“It’s a challenging retail market out there,” points out Shanahan acknowledged. “But Canadian-made goods are recognised outside of Canada as really good quality.”

Founded in 1980 by entrepreneur Alex Tilley, the eponymous clothier outfitted a generation of baby boomers for their travel and outdoors activities. But as it grappled with tougher competition from cheap-chic and more stylish outdoor-fashion rivals, the company felt the urgency to find a buyer that could help put it back on a path to growth.

“Tilley peaked and now its challenge is the revitalization” of the brand, John Williams of retail consultancy J.C. Williams Group said. “It does appear to appeal to an older, more conservative crowd.”

With circa 30 million dollars in yearly sales, it already operates in the US and the UK and is planning to open in other European countries such as Germany, where outdoor activities are popular, Tilley’s CEO said. “We’re putting plans together now for going into new markets,” she said. “Realistically it takes time to get there.”

Tilley’s goods are sold in 18 countries, but has its own stores in Canada – four currently, having closed two in the past year. Actually, more than half of Tilley’s sales are in Canada, and about a third in the United States, according to the company.

Shanahan added that Tilley plans to bank on its made-in-Canada business model by using that theme in its marketing. (It produces all its clothing in this country except socks, which are made in the United States.)

 

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